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Relatives missing in flood disaster

PUBLISHED: 10:35 26 August 2010

Ajmal Khan daughter Arooj

Ajmal Khan daughter Arooj

Archant

A cardiac nurse from a region of Pakistan where catastrophic floods began fears his relatives have died in the disaster after spending a month trying to locate them,

Devastation in Shangla district

Ajmal Khan, 37, of Bastion Road, Abbey Wood, came to the UK from the Shangla district in the north of Pakistan nine years ago. The mountainous region is next to the Swat Valley where the floods - triggered by the annual monsoon rains - started four weeks ago.

He is desperately trying to make contact with his cousins after all the communication lines crashed. However, after speaking to some of his surviving relatives, hopes are fading for others.

The distraught father-of-two said: “My brother and sister are OK but I can’t get hold of some of my cousins. Avalanches are happening. I’m very worried but I just can’t contact them and no one in Pakistan has heard anything,

“It’s really bad. There are no roads only rivers and there’s no communication. The only way I have made contact with my brother and sister is through a satellite phone.

“All the infrastructure is gone. The area was already rundown, now all the schools and hospitals have been swept away. There’s no way to get to the village as there are no roads. We all feel really helpless here. If it was possible I would have gone over there but it’s hopeless. Our faith is all we have.”

The Shangla district is made up of many tiny villages, including Olandar where 49 out of the 60 villagers have perished.

According to Pakistan’s Disaster Authority, the death toll from the flooding has risen to 1,589, with more than 17 million people affected, resulting in four million homeless.

Yesterday, United Nations staff said they needed more helicopters to distribute aid to areas which have been isolated by the floods.

Ajmal, who lives in the UK with his son, Akmal, six, and daughter, Arooj, four, added: “As the area is mountainous, there’s no aid going there. Food prices have soared and the supply is short. It is now 10 times the price for rice and people are poor there.”

An umbrella organisation for British aid agencies, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) said the crisis has caused more destruction than the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake combined.

Charity officials at Oxfam claim that the British public donated £30 million to the flood-stricken country in the first 10 days after the disaster, amounting to £2.10 per person affected. This is compared to £318 per person after the Haiti earthquake.

Mr Khan believes comments made by Prime Minister David Cameron whilst in India in July have had a detrimental affect on people’s willingness to donate money to the nation. During the tour Mr Cameron warned Pakistan not to have any relationship with groups that “promote the export of terror” creating tension amongst the nations.

Mr Khan said: “People believe the money will end up in the hands of terrorists and are cautious of giving money now. That comment was very damaging for the country.” Despite this, he claims the response from the community in the Greenwich Islamic Centre mosque on Plumstead Road has been positive with more than £1,000 raised. He added: “The response has been good but the aid is not going to where I come from because the helicopters have no place to land.”

Mr Khan went to Pakistan after the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in 2005 to hand out money he raised in the UK. He believes the situation could dramatically worsen as the country is only halfway through monsoon season.

reena.kumar@archant.co.uk

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